Ecuador, republic in northwestern South America. It lies south of Colombia, west and north of Peru, and east of the Pacific Ocean. Its territory includes the Galapagos Islands, 650 mi (1,046 km) off the Ecuadorian coast. The country takes its name from the equator (Spanish, ecuador), which runs through the north. The capital is Quito and the country's largest city and main trading center is Guayaquil.
Land and climate
Ecuador is dominated by 2 chains of the Andes traversing the center of the country from north to south. These ranges contain some of the highest peaks in South America and many volcanoes. The area is also subject to disastrous earthquakes. Between the 2 Andean chains lies a string of 10 high plateaus or basins some 7,000–9,000 ft (2,100–2,700 m) above sea level. The area is the most densely populated in the country. Ecuador's ports are situated on the coastal lowlands to the west. Lowlands in the east are covered with equatorial forests and are sparsely populated. The climate of both the eastern and western lowlands is equatorial, with heavy rainfalls in the east. The Andean areas have a more temperate climate that varies with the altitude.
Though the official language is Spanish, Quechua or Jarvo and other Native American dialects are also spoken. The majority of the people are Roman Catholic.
Agriculture was the basis of Ecuador's economy until 1972, when exploitation of petroleum began. Ecuador is now a leading producer of oil in Latin America. Exports also include bananas, coffee, cocoa, and fish products. Economic growth in the 1980s led to industrial development in textiles, food processing, cement, and Pharmaceuticals.
Following the conquest of the Incas by Pizarro in 1533, Ecuador became part of the Spanish Empire. Liberated from Spain in 1822, it has been an independent republic since 1830, but has always suffered from political instability marked by conflict among the conservative landed bourgeoisie of the Andean region and the Roman Catholic Church, the liberal mercantile interests centered in Guayaquil, and, more recently, the urban working classes. Military coups have been endemic—the most recent successful one in January 1976. A civilian government was installed in 1979 under a new constitution providing for an elected executive and legislature and, to date, has proven to be stable. In the late 1990s negotiations regarding a border dispute with Peru were continued.